Perhaps the single most important factor in SEO and Inbound Marketing is content. Here’s the rule: a website with good content can be optimised for good search engine ranking. A website with poor content cannot, unless the optimiser resorts to spamming.
This was certainly the case prior to the release of Google’s Panda Update in early 2011. Although Panda has shaken things up a bit, content still is king, however now it shares the throne with Website Design and Social Media Metrics. This is because good, white-hat link building is not possible without incredibly strong content.
Good content not only targets all of your short and long tail keywords, makes use of Latent Semantic Analysis to target related keywords, makes your website stickier and thus your traffic stay longer, and makes you look like an expert to your clients, but it also provides incentive for linkers to link to you. It also provides the foundation for any decent Social Media Marketing Campaign, providing the possibility of having content go viral.
All too often we are asked to offer Search Engine Optimisation advice to businesses who have five page websites, which just about outline what that business offers, but provides no reason to stick around on the website.
Interesting, useful, unique content
If you are considering having a wedding at a castle, you might search for ‘castle venues for weddings’. There are two results that are in your price and distance bracket. On page two of the SERPs there is a website for a beautiful castle. The website only has four pages: A home page with a large photograph, a ‘weddings’ page with some photos of past weddings and a bit of information on the process, as well as a basic pitch, a ‘visiting’ page for casual visitors, which contains information on opening hours and school trip schedules, as well as a brief history of the castle, and a contact and directions page. Then you go to another website of a rival venue. This website has all of the aforementioned content, but on top of this has a ten page, beautifully illustrated history of the castle. There is then a fifty-page history of famous lovers throughout history, true accounts of jealous lord’s doing-in their rivals to bag the rival’s wife, knights on voyages to save damsels, troubadours citing courtly love and fin amour. There is a video montage of movies that have been shot at the castle and a list of famous visitors.
The prices are the same, the Castle’s just as beautiful and the location as ideal, but which one do you think is more likely to get a phone call? More to the point, which is more likely to get a link, and to hit all of the right keyword’s to be placed in the database for appropriate searches?
You may not have a castle business, but this principle can be applied to any kind of business. Are you a plumber? Why not write a comprehensive, easily understood How-To-Guide, addressing basic plumbing issues? Or why not publish a top ten list of the most embarrassing plumbing issues you have ever been called to deal with?
The idea is to make your website worth visiting and worth linking to. Try to think outside the box and do something that other’s are not doing. This is how you attract incoming links. Linkers have to see something unique about your website. If you write a how-to-guide that has been written one hundred times before, this is not exactly ideal. What is unique about your guide? Is it more comprehensive than the others? Is it more up to date? Is it better designed and more easily digestible? Is it free as opposed to paid for? Are there accompanying videos and examples?
Is your content relevant to the year and month in which we live? It is no use publishing a vast how-to-guide about a Mac product that was retired the month before. Sure, there will be some users who will use it, but it is not at the cutting edge. Your resources would be much better spent on the newest product to market: this is what will have the most online buzz.
What do you offer that is relevant and timely? If you are a religious website wishing to appeal to today’s youth, you must speak about topics relevant to today’s youth, perhaps the reasons behind London riots or the Occupy movement?
People won’t link to you or read you if you are a few month late.
Up to date content
As with the previous point, make sure you are on time and up to date. Always be at the forefront of your industry. This can apply to all industries, not just news outlets or gossip columns. Always be the first to report about the newest developments in your sphere. Be a leader, not a follower, and you will be seen as an expert and thus receive the due links and social media chatter.
So what makes good content? In a nutshell, it should tick at least a few of these boxes:
Grammatically correct content
All content should be spelt correctly and grammatically correct. Fall foul of this and you could be penalised for spammy behaviour or for simply providing a poor user experience.
Avoid Superfluous Content
This is especially relevant since the launch of Google’s Panda Update in 2011. Content must add to the user experience of your website. Having oodles of content is great if your users find it useful or engaging. If, however, it is deemed useless, boring or sloppy, instead of increasing your rankings and traffic it could now attract penalties from Google.
Presentation is key. Content does not have to be inherently useful, as long as it is broadly relevant to your website and extremely engaging.
How is it delivered? Is your delivery fresh and funny, fascinating and well designed or useful and informative, or is it useless and boring, badly presented and sloppy or grammatically incorrect and factually inaccurate?
If you are a computer manufacturing company and you have separate pages for every single wire, component and material that goes into your computers, giving a boring description of the background and function of each of these components, likelihood is that the search engines will deem this to useless content placed purely for the sake of SEO. You’re selling computers, and your buyer will usually be completely indifferent to this information. They will note that these pages have low traffic and a high bounce rate, and may actively penalise the website publishing them.
On the other hand, if this same website publishes this information, but does it in a way that is gripping, well written and stylishly designed, then it will almost certainly be of a major benefit to that website. The searcher may well have only arrived to find a computer but, seeing your hilarious and well written take on computer components may get distracted for a few minutes or hours to take time to read these articles, and may go as far as ‘sharing’ them with friends.
This requires a lot of honesty on the web publisher’s behalf: Is the content on your website superfluous and useless? Would any of your potential customers or visitors go to these pages and read them thoroughly, finding them a great distraction from what they were doing? Or would they see it and instantly think ‘not a chance’ and press the back button?
Remember: Presentation is king.
Make the most of technology
Remember, we are talking about the web here. It is the future of the way that people do business and, in many respects, live their lives. Simple written content will only get you so far on the Internet. There will always be a rival utilising the latest technology to get their point across in a more poignant, personal or exciting manner. If you are a restaurant, can you create an IPhone app that pushes a ‘recipe of the day’ to your subscribers’ phones? Can you create step-by-step recipe guide videos? Can you create a widget in which you type in a wine type with a food type and see whether they complement one another?
These are just a few suggestions from a series of limitless possibilities. Technology is constantly changing and improving. With every new piece of technology there comes a new way to appeal to your target audience. Use it.
There is an old saying in the marketing work: There is no such thing as ‘bad’ publicity. Make what you will of this. Many web publishers publish intentionally controversial, thought provoking or evocative content with the sole intention of garnering an emotional response, resulting in links. A good example of this can be seen constantly in political blogs, especially in America. A right wing blogger will make an incredibly controversial comment, perhaps disparaging a left wing icon. Left wing bloggers pick up on this, react with fury and link to the site so that all of their followers can reel in the arrogant ignorance of the bone headed right winger. Enough bloggers link to it that the content goes viral, enticing thousands of other links. All of a sudden this blog has thousands more links and tens of thousands of mentions across social platforms- its domain authority skyrockets, it’s ranking soars and its traffic goes through the roof. Naturally this works the other way round; perhaps a Left wing blog writes an article about corporate greed using provocative language. It hits a nerve and goes viral. Not only will its newly attained links permanently increase its domain rank, but outraged or interested readers who follow links to the offending content may explore the site further and discover that it actually contains a lot of pertinent information worth reflecting on.
The possibilities are endless. But do weigh up the pros and cons before you exercise a strategy such as this. It can potentially back fire, causing permanent damage to your brand. It also may not be in your nature to want to intentionally upset people. It certainly is not a tactic that Go Up employ or recommend.